Read an excerpt from the book

How to remember the names

At another event, I introduce myself once again ("I'm a brain trainer, helping people, among other things, to improve their memory") and I hear another laugh: ha, we have a great memory. But after five minutes, these same people begin to cautiously avoid calling me by my name, and I know why. I introduced myself and they didn't remember my name. And a week later, we meet at another business event: they recognize me, smile, talk to me friendly, but... they don't call me by name. It's common for people not to remember names. And they don't see anything wrong with that - that's what's surprising.
There is a commonplace truth, dating back to D. Carnegie: the most pleasing sound to us is our name. It is our identifier, our recognition that we exist: after all, our social self lives only by having others validate our existence. We pick our name out of the noise, even when hundreds of voices are mingling in the room or music is thundering, and we react instantly. On the street, when we hear someone shout our name, we turn around and study the person who shouted it - even if we know it wasn't us.
And remember how you felt when you realized that the person you were talking to did not remember your name. Perhaps you were offended, hurt by his inattention. Of course, quality communication is impossible if one interlocutor is tortured by the question "What the hell is his name?" and the other is also dying of embarrassment - "Doesn't he remember my name? How can I give him a hint?"
Some take the initiative - every time they introduce themselves, repeat their name in different ways during the conversation, remind them how to contact them, and call themselves by name again when they say goodbye. At the next meeting, while saying hello, they introduce themselves once again and remind them where they met the interlocutor. This approach has a big disadvantage - the fixation on the task to be remembered at all costs. Would you want to do business with someone who is so imposing?
Separate talk about professionals working "in the field." These are service sales managers who meet potential clients at business events. It would seem that specialists are taught about communication - how to make contact when getting acquainted, how to "break the ice", how to introduce yourself, and how to get the phone number or email address of the interlocutor to get in touch later for a more substantive conversation. But I have never met a manager who immediately remembered my simple name. The funny thing is that these professionals are usually sent to several events in a row: the audience can overlap, and these smart guys come up to me as if nothing had happened and start their song again. They do not remember my name, do not remember my face and do not realize that I am already "worked out contact. From my own experience, I can say with confidence that even experienced salespeople "in the field" (and this is usually the leading specialists and managers) are contriving to do everything to make potential customers bypass their organization. If I am not remembered - it means indifference or disrespect, it means that they do not care about me, they are just trying to use me.
Why do people have such a poor memory of names? A whole list of reasons could be given:
  • lack of focus on the name;
  • lack of interest in the person;
  • a habit of scanning the periphery;
  • preoccupation with one's person;
  • excitement, anxiety;
  • fear of being a boring conversationalist;
  • fear of rejection;
  • fear of not remembering the name.
What prevents you from concentrating at the moment of acquaintance and automatically remembering the name of the interlocutor?
The first is lack of purpose. If there is no intention to remember other people's names, you won't remember them. And it's not even about whether you like the other person or not, whether you are interested in him or not, or whether you need him or not (for many people this is a deciding factor in dating). Unfortunately, the one-time brain order - "Remember this name!" - doesn't work. So initially set yourself this goal of remembering the names of interlocutors, and focus on this goal. No, you don't have to keep it in your head all the time, but when you enter a hall with a lot of strangers, remind yourself that you are going to remember the names of those with whom you will meet at the event.
The second is multitasking. What I mean is that at large events you shouldn't hold out your hand for a handshake and simultaneously look around the room: God forbid you to miss more important people to greet or introduce yourself. It's a basic courtesy to look at the face of the person you're introducing yourself to, listening carefully to what they're saying. But people are talking to one person, eyes scanning the room for others, and in the meantime, there is a whirlwind of irrelevant thoughts in their heads. Remember, efficiency is the child of consistency. Look around the room when you're alone and not busy talking.
Third, is the inability to free your head for the here-and-now. Give yourself over to the moment. Do not think about how you look and what you have to say, do not evaluate others: people read it all in a split second and lose interest in you. A man who is preoccupied with himself and judges others is an unpleasant interlocutor.
Some clients confessed to me that in crowded meetings they feel anxious, it is difficult to concentrate, and their head is like a fog. They fear: "What if my hands sweat and my voice is unnatural and gives away fear?" They don't want to look stupid. Here's a simple rule: look fear in the eye and act despite it. Try to shift the focus: don't think about the fear itself and its consequences, but find another interest. Give yourself a task: for example, when getting acquainted, note the timbre of the other person's voice. By the end of the evening, you will have a collection of tones, and you'll be able to count how many of them are high, how many are low, how much inexpressive, and how many are deep. Your head will be busy with the task, the excitement will recede, and you'll be focused on the person you're talking to every time, listening to him carefully, and you certainly won't miss his name.
The same advice I can give those who are bored at such events but have to attend them for work. Find your interest, run an internal quest: say, look closely at the faces of new acquaintances, wondering how many people are in the room with long noses, or what the ratio of dark-haired and bespectacled ...
Some might argue that this is a cynical approach. Is it? After all, the "quest" is not that important-you, by showing interest in people, allowing them to open up, and you realize how unique and profound the other person is. To you, the person focused on him or her, he or she will tell you more. Pleasant surprises are waiting for you, which can lead to new opportunities.
Conferences and networking
I remember one of the first major conferences, in which I went to work, as a young professional. I realized that this was a great opportunity not only to acquire new knowledge but also to meet colleagues from other fields, and learn how they solve their work tasks. I was full of hope and excitement, as clichéd as it sounds. And? Yes, the presentations were interesting and useful, but the coffee breaks were a real test for me. I was holding a cup of coffee, fearfully looking around all alone and watching with envy how at other tables groups of people were discussing and laughing. They enjoyed the conversation and were in no hurry to go back to the hall to listen to another guru. I was angry with myself: I, too, had to meet them and discuss something, gushing with excitement. I, too, had to tell them (who "them"?) that I existed, that there were interesting cases in my practice, too, and that I had successfully coped with them. Nothing changed at the evening cocktail party either. I was standing in the same lonely corner with a glass of champagne - there was no one to even clink with. True, there were plenty of other singles like me, but it seemed to me that I was the only loser at this feast of life.
Now, many years later, I see such loners at various events, squinting fearfully at groups of people. Like me, they stand on the sidelines, waiting for someone to come up to them and take an interest in their shy, unassuming persona. But why, exactly? Why should anyone be interested in me? What am I anyway? These were the questions I asked myself after that ill-fated conference. What kind of wait-and-see, passive strategy is this? It's impossible to get anyone interested in me if you're not interested in people.
I ended up going to networking training to learn how to manage business relationships, and I worked hard for several years to improve my social skills. I learned about the main principle of networking - to give, not to take. Give your attention, your energy, and your interest to your interlocutor.
People who consider themselves introverts or who are introverts believe that they are not naturally gifted to shine in society. But the ability to communicate can be coached. And the first step in this path is a sincere interest in the interlocutor, in his name.
Let's return to networking. Before the age of social networks, our circle of communication was quite narrow and was limited mainly to personal contacts. The idea of networking as a network of useful long-term connections appeared in the second half of the last century when the era of globalization began, and it became essential for businessmen to have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances connected with one or economic sphere. This need implied constant communication with both old and new acquaintances. It was necessary to write letters, send postcards, make phone calls, and meet. The owner of an extensive network of connections was an active man, and he constantly had to make great efforts to keep this network in working order. Of course, he remembered not only the name of each acquaintance but also his birthday knew the names of his wife and children and had a rough idea of his biography. Getting to know such people (and their notebooks) was worth its weight in gold.
Now social networks are largely responsible for networking. The same Facebook reminds you of birthdays, you can read the basic information in your profile. Friends and acquaintances themselves take care of being visible, they remind us about themselves by posting posts and photos; we know what their relatives (spouses, children) look like, where they work, where they go on vacation, and what they are happy or sad about. We perceive this network passively - we just use it when we need to report or ask something. And this passivity can play a cruel joke on us: we don't bother to remember even the necessary information, and when meeting someone offline we out of habit think of the new acquaintance as a new face in the Facebook feed. If this person is very important to us, if we are focused on him or her, then our self-esteem sets the trap: "What do I look like?", "What would be so smart to say?", "How do I answer?". Internal dialogue is triggered, and the words of the interlocutor fly past our ears.
There is also a purely physiological limitation. Robin Dunbar, an Oxford professor of psychology and anthropologist, has calculated the number of social ties a person can maintain: it averages out to 150 (the so-called Dunbar number). We can maintain regular relationships with about 150 people by being well-versed in their lives. How many of them are relatives, classmates, fellow students, or colleagues? How many free "slots" are left for new acquaintances?
We glide over faces, as we are used to gliding our eyes over endless information: over the top, over the headlines. Scattered attention becomes habitual. And while a notebook used to be invaluable, memory, attention, and the flexible neural connections of our brains are now priceless. We can remember much more information about other people by using mnemonic techniques and by learning to transfer information from short-term to long-term memory - this is called memory consolidation. But first, it is necessary to reconfigure perception and give up the habit of passively consuming information - including information about people - that has become ingrained over the past ten years.
For those who want to develop the skill to automatically remember names, there is a special mnemotechnical technique. Mastering it requires at least a month of active work, it must become a habit. Constant practice in everyday life is not easy, so I made special training for very busy people. I will share with you a training method with the help of which you will be able to put this skill to practice on your own.
There is a reason why this chapter was preceded by a chapter on associative thinking. This is a necessary foundation. First I will talk about preparatory exercises and explain how they work. And then you and I will get acquainted with the technique of remembering names.
Preparation for setting the skill
Devote an entire week to these two exercises.
Exercise 1.
Each day, play with your children or friends in the game like this: one says a word (eg, "cat"), and the other must answer by consonance (eg, "gnat"). Whoever answered, offers his partner a new word, until he, in turn, does not find a consonance to it. Play at a high tempo, do not hesitate and do not stop. The main rule: the word must be real (that is, not a set of letters) and mean what exists.
How this exercise works
Don't be surprised if the first day you find it difficult to pick up words in consonance. As mentioned above, we rarely resort to associative thinking consciously. With a little practice, the words will come to mind easily and quickly. At first, thought will follow the beaten path, the usual neural connections, everyday, formulaic thinking, and everyday vocabulary will be involved. But the longer you play this game, the more new neural connections arise, and the more often existing ones, which are not very active, become involved. Gradually, words that are rare for your vocabulary start popping up, pulling some memories with them. Not only your vocabulary is enriched, but also your palette of images.